This past December, Devin and I, along with our two kids, traveled to India to visit with family. Family, you say? Yes, family. While my mother is from Eastern North Carolina and that's where I spent my growing up years, my father is actually from India. He came over in 1965 with only $8 in his pocket to do his residency at Watts Hospital in Durham, NC. He was making his rounds one night at the hospital when he came across a blonde-haired, fair-skinned nurse working the same floor. They tell me it was love at first sight, and I wholeheartedly believe them.
I have had many opportunities to visit India before marrying Devin, but due to pregnancies and schedules, we missed the last two trips my family took to go back and see my dad's side of the family. It was 15 years ago that I last saw the coconut trees and rice paddy fields of India, and I was thrilled to go back and to take Devin and the kids with me. While it took many years for me to fully appreciate all that I had seen, traveling outside of my home state (and outside of the USA in general) and being able to experience a completely different culture left quite an impression on my young heart. And honestly, I was hoping to offer something similar to my own children.
So, on December 18, 2014, we gathered up our bags and started our long journey to India. I was worried about how the kids would do on the 30-some hours of traveling (and specifically the 13.5 hour flight from Washington, D.C. to Abu Dhabi), but they turned out to be adventurous and flexible. Even once we were immersed in a culture vastly different from our own, surrounded by loving yet unfamiliar people, they remained positive and willing to learn. I loved seeing it all again for the first time through the eyes of Devin and the kids, and it was an incredible blessing to experience the power of family, even if it's one that lives halfway around the world.
It was a trip we will never forget and continually treasure in our hearts, partly because we were able to take Leyton and Brynley and see them learn so much from experiencing India. As Devin was reflecting on the experience during the 15 hour plane ride home, here are a few things he wrote down that our kids were able to discover on the trip:
1. The world is bigger than your neighborhood.
A kid's world can be pretty small and full of routines. And while that can lead to safety and security, what all kids need, it can also develop a sense of sameness. Kids might begin to think that the entire world is full of people just like them, whose everyday life mimics our own. This trip helped our kids personally discover a world that vastly different than what they have experienced previously. It helped them discover this simple, but powerful truth: The world is so much bigger than we think. What a valuable lesson for our kids to learn and experience at such a young age.
2. Being a family bonds us together.
It’s easy to notice how different our family in India is on the outside. Their skin and hair is darker, their clothes are more modest and even their language is noticeably different. However, the connection we have with them goes beyond what’s on the outside. Rather, its what on the inside that bonds us together--it’s our hearts that are linked. The bond we have as a family runs deeper than our skin color, is broader than our language barrier, and more powerful than the pull of culture. And that’s a bond that can never be broken.
3. God loves all people, including Indian people.
Every week in our church our kids hear the phrase, “Inviting all people into a living relationship with Jesus Christ.” It’s our mission as a church and it’s emphasis has left a lasting impression on our family about who we should be as followers of Jesus. However, to be honest, it's easier to understand God's love for all people when most of the people look, act and talk like us. Experiencing a new culture raises our understanding of God's love for people expands an appreciation for who God is and just how strong his love really is for all the people of the world. It’s a love that we cannot possibly comprehend and one that brings us to a place of wonder and awe for the God we worship and adore.
4. There is so much left to be discovered.
We have a family motto: "Tharps try new things." It’s not always loved or appreciated, but it is one that is constantly reminding us that there is something new yet to be discovered just around the corner. In our American world that is always seeking to entertain us, it’s easy to sit back and wait for new things to come to you. However, I don’t want my children to simply wait for life to come and find them, but to seek it out on their own. The world that our God has created is immense, creative and always changing. With all that it has to offer, there is always something new to explore. How can anyone be bored when the world is full of life and adventure? There are infinite new things to discover, and when you understand that, you will never be bored again.